The review is in: My Tawny girl loooooves her home-cooked meals. I keep researching and experimenting with different foods to give her the best nutrition while making sure I minimize her exposure to allergens, especially the one that made her so sick: mold.

Imagine my horror when I opened up a new bag of her favorite chicken jerky (made in the USA) and found the entire contents covered in mold. I mean this stuff, normally an orange collar, was green. I looked at the second bag I bought; same deal, but not as obvious.

I returned them, and when asked if I wanted replacements, without even thinking I said no. I wondered how many more might have mold, how many I may have brought home with some amount of mold on them I didn’t notice. I couldn’t risk it. I walked out without anything for my dog to chew on. Again. I’d already been through this process several times eliminating just about every chewing option for one reason or another: too hard (antlers, bully sticks, regular Nyla bones); contains corn, wheat and/or soy (many composite/shaped things), too-big last pieces getting swallowed and thrown back up with blood on them (rawhide!).

The only option I had for Tawny were the sticks in the yard! She liked them and didn’t eat any of the pieces she broke off. Little hard to find one in the snow, though, and a little more mess than I’m willing to deal with in the house….

Aarrgh! Now what?

To the Internet, of course.

I found a recipe for making sweet potato chews. It went like this: slice and bake in low oven for several hours. Okay, so more like a procedure. Really easy, I thought. I’ll give it a whirl.

I should mention here that I know absolutely nothing about sweet potatoes, except that they’re not the same as yams. I don’t know the difference is. I’ve never cooked or eaten one. That orange stuff in the bowl with the marshmallow stuff on top? I don’t know which one that is; regardless, no way am I eating that.

I was stumped in the store because one sign said yams and another for the same bin said sweet potatoes. A kind fellow shopper informed me that the things in the bin were what I wanted, no matter the name, because we only have one kind on the U.S. I don’t remember which one. But I’m awfully grateful to the shopper; if not for her, I might still be standing there.

I also have learned that sweet potatoes are really hard to slice for three reasons: they are shaped funny, they are dense, and my knives stink. I ended up raiding my mom’s knives and finally found a serrated one that worked.

The “easy” cooking part was anything but because of the above slicing challenges and one additional one: I can’t cut straight. It’s a hand-eye coordination thing; it looked straight until I start slicing. My knife got stuck and I realized I was seriously off track. When I finally get a piece hacked off I tried to even it out by planing it like a door, which worked not at all. So uniformity did not happen. That meant a lot of different cooking times for one trayful. Since the goal here is to dry them out, I really had to keep an eye on them. Other parts of the learning curve caused me to toss a bunch that I burnt because I set the wrong temperature, and another batch was 86ed because I forgot to turn them halfway though.

Sooooo, not as easy as it seemed.

However, I am nothing if not determined — some might say stubborn, perhaps even pigheaded — and I have pretty well straightened out my system. I use parchment paper instead of foil so they don’t stick. If all the shininess is gone from the inside they are close to done. I have even gotten a little better at slicing. A little.

There are several upsides to doing this. It’s cheaper — much — to make my own. It makes my house smell nice.

The best thing, the most surprising thing, and the only thing that will ensure I will keep making them, is that Tawny loves them. I mean loves them. She takes them and runs off in absolute delight. How could I not keep cooking them up? I believe I have already established that I will do practically anything for my dogs to make their lives better. Goofy dog love!

Sweet potatoes. Who knew? What next?

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